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Protecting our oceans is a great investment!

I woke up today to the headline in the Globe and Mail that the federal government “is preparing to commit long-term cash for infrastructure in its 2013 budget”. That’s great. I am sure hoping this will include investments in our “ocean infrastructure”.

What, you ask? “Ocean infrastructure”? Well to be fair I have never really thought of putting it this way, but the reality is that our oceans provide a huge contribution to our economy, beyond the amazing ecological benefits to life on earth.

How do I know this?  Because the Auditor General of Canada has confirmed it. That’s right. In a report  today from the Auditor General’s office by outgoing Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan, he  says that fish and fish processing contributed nearly $3.3 billion to our gross domestic product in 2006. The 2011 lobster catch generated $1.1 billion in exports.

The Auditor General also found that Canadian marine tourism generated expenditures of about $4.3 billion in 2006.  According to him, whale watching in the Saguenay region of Quebec attracted more than one million visitors in 2007  and they spent an estimated $161.7 million in the region. Parks Canada estimates that the marine protected area in the Saguenay region generates $3.16 in government revenues for every dollar spent on managing the site.

Mr Vaughan’s findings also reinforce our own that we released 2 weeks ago, in “How Deep did Canada Dare?”  -- that we are lagging sorely in protecting our oceans. The Auditor General notes that California has protected 13% of its oceans. Canada is at just about 1%.

CPAWS is calling on the federal government to invest $35 million a year towards establishing networks of marine protected areas in all of our oceans. That’s what we figure is needed to get us on track to meeting the target we have officially committed to – of protecting 10% of our oceans by 2020. By actually investing in achieving this target, we’ll move us closer to the scale of protection that’s needed to sustain life in our oceans, and on earth!  And it’s peanuts when you look at the economic benefits that our oceans provide.

I encourage you if you haven’t already, to take a look at our report, and to check out this great video the Auditor General made about why MPA’s are so important.